We live in a material and commercial world and with the prevalence of technology, we are only headed further down this dark path. With the combination of media, personal devices, and machine learning (computers that are able to learn and adapt by using algorithms and statistics), we are just completely saturated with personalized ads and distractions. Our mobile phone is the canvas for these distractions and we can’t seem to put it down. Phones are probably treasured more than anything else and data* backs it up:
– 74% of Americans feel uneasy leaving their phone at home.
– 71% of Americans say they check their phones within the first 10 minutes of waking up.
– 53% say that they have never gone longer than 24 hours without their cell phone.
– 47% consider themselves “addicted” to their phones
– 35% use or look at their phone while driving.
– 70% of Americans check their phones within five minutes of receiving a notification.
– 64% use their phone on the toilet.
– 61% have texted someone in the same room as them before.
– 48% of people say they feel a sense of panic or anxiety when their cell phone battery goes below 20%.
– 45% say that their phone is their most valuable possession.
This “treasure” is not just possessing us, it’s completely consuming us! While not proud, I know that I fall into this category as well. So what can we do?
This Sunday’s readings are full of reminders for us. In the first reading, Qoheleth declares that “all things are vanity.” In the gospel, we hear the parable of a rich man who produced so much harvest, that he tore down his barn to build a bigger one to store it all. On that last one, change “barn” into “house”, and change “harvest” into “clutter,” and now it’s relevant to many today.
Finally, in the second reading, we hear the answer as to what to do with this problem of material things and wealth: “Seek what is above, not of what is on earth.” The reading goes on to list all the bad things that we need to “put to death.”
As Christians, we know earthly treasures are not what matter. We know that we should be seeking what is above. Yet given the barrage of societal pressures and media plus technology saturation, casting aside possessions seems near impossible.
I’m not here expecting you or I to completely ditch that mobile distractor that’s itching in your pocket or purse; however, let’s start by making a small turn in the other direction. At least once per day, when you feel bored and tempted to grab that phone and quickly scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or play a quick game for a minute, stop yourself and offer up a prayer instead. How long does it take to say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and/or Glory Be? Probably about the same amount of time that you would be scrolling through that social feed. Let’s just start with just once per day. We can all do that.
* Reviews.org surveyed 1,000 Americans 18 years and older with a +/- 4% margin of error and a confidence level of 95%. The survey results were weighted to reflect characteristics of the United States population using available data from the US census.